Three artificial intelligence start-ups were the winners of the Mercedes-Benz South Africa Innovation Challenge.
Nine finalists presented their innovative ideas at a final selection event in the MBSA East London plant – the culmination of a unique partnership between MBSA, the LaunchLab and STARTUP AUTOBAHN that kicked off at the end of August this year.
The two winners in the manufacturing category were DataProphet, a group of machine learning specialists which provides A.I./ML development through corporate partnerships with the aim of delivering bleeding-edge machine solutions, and Vizbility Insight, an artificial Intelligence company specialising in globally scaleable predictive and prescriptive risk management software.
The winner in the sales and marketing category was NumberBoost, a startup that builds machine learning and artificial intelligence applications.
DataProphet was the overall winner.
These category winners each receive R300 000 to pilot their idea for future use within MBSA. DataProphet will also travel to Europe next year to pitch the innovative idea in front of hundreds of automotive decision makers at a big STARTUP AUTOBAHN event in Germany.
“I am highly impressed with the innovative solutions that were displayed at the MBSA Innovation Challenge,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Manufacturing and Supply Chain for Daimler AG, MBSA’s parent company. “South Africa has some serious talent. The presentations were absolutely awesome and provided real solutions to the tasks that we face as a company. I congratulate all start-ups that presented at this event.”
The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Innovation Challenge targeted two streams. It asked interested students and professionals (as a first stream) and existing startups (as a second stream) to pitch innovative ideas to revolutionise the automotive manufacturing and marketing and sales environment.
“From an MBSA perspective, this challenge is crucial in that it will assist us in increasing agility while developing internal capability that changes organisational culture and the way we work,” said Andreas Engling MBSA CEO and executive director for manufacturing. “Most importantly, these innovative ideas will allow us to respond to changes and adapt to new market challenges quicker. In this process, we can increase our productivity.”
Innovation has always been a key to success for the automotive sector. In a world where disruption reigns and new opportunities need to be seized, innovation will be even more important in future.
Anne Knierim, senior manager for technology management and research policy and head of STARTUP AUTOBAHN, Daimler AG, said: “STARTUP AUTOBAHN globally scouts startups and matches them to the right colleagues within Daimler. I am impressed about the passion and capabilities of the South African startups in the challenge and I am really excited about the results we will see during the next months.”
The challenge also aims to provide a gateway for existing startups to grow and sustain their businesses.
MBSA will extend the opportunity for the student stream into 2018, to determine who will get the opportunity to be enrolled by the LaunchLab in its Lift-Off Programme for an initial three-month period. The Lift-Off Programme will be facilitated from the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab, in Stellenbosch.
“This is what the LaunchLab is all about: facilitating valuable connections for startups and corporates for their mutual benefit,” said Philip Marais, CEO of the LaunchLab. “Through this Innovation Challenge, South African startups can have a global impact. Financial support from MBSA and support from high-profile representatives from Daimler and MBSA has really raised the profile of this event and helped to make it a great success. Well done to the winners.”
Why sports cars make us feel good
Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.
The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.
Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior.
Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU
“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”
Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss.
For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:
From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:
- High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
- 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
- 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs
Driver state research
Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.
“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”
|Activity||Buzz Moments *|
|Game of Thrones||1.5|
* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant
Car that sees round corners
Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.
Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.
Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”
Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.
AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.